Posted by: pyeager | October 30, 2012

What’s In a Name? Confusion for One Thing

By Paul Yeager, author of Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I’ve written and talked about the devastating storm called Hurricane Sandy, Frankenstorm, and Superstorm Sandy elsewhere, including on WHYY in Philadelphia and the Huffington Post, but I wanted to talk about the trend of naming non-tropical storms. Put simply: My stance is that it causes more confusion than brings clarity. (I did refer to the storm as Frankenstorm on the Huffington Post to make it consistent with the coverage on the site.)

I know why tropical storms and hurricanes have been named, and it works. The storms are easier to follow, there is a standard naming convention, and the names alone give people some idea about the strength of a storm.

The naming of non-tropical storms, however, would not have that effect. There would be no naming convention, meaning some people would use one name and others would use another, and the names would not include some indication of strength.

The Weather Channel believes that it’s in its own best interest to begin naming storms, but once AccuWeather refuses to use that name and, instead, gives the storm a name of its own, and NOAA doesn’t call the storm by a name at all, and other media entities give a storm its own nickname, the general public will be completely confused.

Naming storms is about bringing attention to those doing the naming, not about bringing information to the public in a more clear way.

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